Chaiten volcano erupts again in southern Chile

Thursday, February 19th 2009, 6:06 pm
By: News 9

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) -- More than 150 people who had returned to a Chilean town destroyed by a volcanic eruption last year were evacuated again on Thursday as the volcano roared back to life, spewing ash high into the air.
   The explosion apparently rocked the dome of the Chaiten volcano and sent volcanic material down the mountain's slope, threatening to block a river and trigger flooding, said Paula Narvaez, a presidential delegate to the area in southern Chile.
   Experts who flew over the volcano reported "large emanation of gas" on Thursday and said the situation is risky for the nearby seaside town of Chaiten because rains could trigger avalanches.
   "The experts were unanimous in considering that no one must remain in Chaiten," Chile's Emergency Bureau said in a communique.
   Narvaez said that as many as 160 people were evacuated from the vicinity of the 2,700-foot (960-meter) volcano.
   More than 4,000 people were initially evacuated after Chaiten erupted on May 2 for the first time in an estimated 9,000 years.
   On Thursday, increased seismic activity was reported and ash fell 100 miles (160 kilometers) away in Futaleufu.
   Some residents of Chaiten, six miles (10 kilometers) from the like-named volcano, have strongly resisted government efforts to relocate them to a new settlement following the devastating eruption last year.
   Residents opposed to the move in recent weeks staged protests in the town's ruins, amid houses buried under ash and volcanic mudflows.
   Narvaez said the situation on Thursday "was exactly the kind of danger we were talking about when we decided to relocate Chaiten."
   The relocation site has yet to be determined.